Best Smartphones of 2020

0Share

Despite the global pandemic, 2020 was another banner year for smartphones, with plenty of great choices made available from all the top brands. Choosing the best of those phones is largely a subjective task. After all, what’s best for one user isn’t necessarily what’s best for all. People have different needs, different budgets, and so on. With that in mind, we’ve put together a top-five list of our favorite phones of 2020—a register that hopefully includes something for everyone.

iPhone 12 Pro

Although it was announced less than a month ago, it’s tough to argue the iPhone 12 Pro doesn’t belong on our list. Available in four different configurations (standard, “mini,” “Pro,” and “Max,”) the new iPhone 12 series represents the pinnacle of Apple’s smartphone technology. Of those four variants, the iPhone 12 Pro is our favorite, thanks in part to its rear camera system, a triple-rear setup that’s arguably the most powerful and capable camera system Apple has ever made. In addition to being a photographer’s delight, the iPhone 12 Pro also features Apple’s newest (and fastest) smartphone chip, the A14 Bionic, a stunning 6.1" edge-to-edge display, a new, more durable “Ceramic Shield” front cover, and 5G support. Those aren’t all the features the iPhone 12 Pro has to offer, but they’re enough to drive home this point: Not only is the iPhone 12 Pro one of the top phones of the year, it’s likely the best smartphone Apple has ever made.

iPhone 12 Pro
Apple iPhone 12 Pro
Shot on iPhone 12 Pro

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Even as the proud owner of the iPhone 12 Pro, I have to admit that the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra might be the best smartphone of 2020. It’s definitely the best phablet out there and probably the top Android phone overall—assuming the hefty price tag isn’t too much of a deterrent. Speaking of cost: While it’s true that the Note 20 Ultra is a lot of buck, it’s also a whole lot of bang. It features a gorgeous 6.9" “Infinity-O” AMOLED display with a variable 120 Hz refresh rate, an incredible camera system that includes a 108MP wide lens (one of three rear lenses), an upgraded S Pen stylus, and a whole lot more. On top of that, the Note 20 Ultra supports DeX, which basically converts it into a miniature PC. There’s no denying that all these premium features come at a premium price, but if you can swing it, you’ll be the proud (if somewhat indebted) owner of arguably the best phone of 2020.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Shot on Pixel 5
Shot on Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Pixel 5

In a world where the best phones typically cost the most money, the Pixel 5 is a welcome alternative. For around half of what you’ll pay for the Note 20 Ultra, the Pixel 5 delivers many of the same features, including its hallmark picture quality, which continues to rank among the best available. How did Google manage to keep its new flagship both affordable and competitive? Simple: The company focused heavily on what people want from a smartphone (good camera, good battery life, good performance) and didn’t waste resources on niche frills or superficial enhancements. The result? The Pixel 5 delivers image quality that rivals any smartphone on the market. Its full-day battery is a notable improvement over last year’s model and stands toe-to-toe with other flagships. Its processor isn’t the fastest chip available, but it is fast enough to facilitate a speedy, seamless experience using the Pixel 5’s always-up-to-date Android software. The Pixel 5 doesn’t check all of the same boxes as Samsung or Apple, but it checks many of the boxes that matter most to consumers—at a price that’s dramatically less.

Google Pixel 5
Google Pixel 5
Shot on Pixel 5

OnePlus 8 Pro

For years, OnePlus phones have danced around the edges of our “best of” list, never quite making the final cut. This year, they’ve officially broken through, thanks to this brand’s best phone ever, the OnePlus 8 Pro. You could argue that what separates the OnePlus 8 Pro from other handsets has more to do with OnePlus relaxing its financial restraints than the phone itself. Where earlier models were somewhat curtailed by OnePlus’s mission to keep the phones as cheap as possible, the OnePlus 8 Pro enjoys the benefits of full financial backing. That support translates to one of the best smartphone displays in the world, incredibly fast performance, excellent battery life (with wireless and reverse charging), and many of the other flagship fixins. Its camera performance, while fairly good, doesn’t quite stand up to the likes of the iPhone 12 Pro or the Note 20 Ultra. Then again, the OnePlus 8 Pro is also significantly cheaper than both of those phones, so that’s a reasonable tradeoff.

OnePlus 8 Pro
OnePlus 8 Pro
Shot on OnePlus 8 Pro
Shot on OnePlus 8 Pro

Edge 5G

Earlier this year, Motorola jumped back into the flagship game with the Edge+, a top-tier handset that rivals many of the best phones available but doesn’t necessarily stand out among them—a fact not helped by its Verizon-only exclusivity. Then came the Edge 5G, a phone that manages to approximate many of the Edge+’s features for nearly half the price. And that’s why the Edge 5G is on our list: value. While it is true the Edge 5G doesn’t win any specific performance category (be it battery life, image quality, or processor speed), the 5G is nonetheless a great overall phone. Its 6.7" OLED display is great. Its camera, which includes a 64MP rear shooter, is great—if a little inconsistent. And despite it not supporting wireless charging, the Edge 5G’s battery is also great. Are any of its specs or features “the best?” Aside from its cost, which is the lowest on our list, no. But if you prefer bigger numbers next to your bank account, not your phone’s CPU, then the Motorola Edge 5G is one of the year’s best options.

Moto Edge 5G
Moto Edge 5G
Shot on Edge 5G

If you’re looking for a more detailed account, be sure to check out our full hands-on review of the Motorola Edge 5G.

That does it for our list! What do you think—did we miss any? Let us know us in the Comments section, below!

Items discussed in article

Close

Close

Close